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Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon

What Michael Cusack Didn't Foresee

The first record of Gaelic football appeared in the Statutes of Galway in 1527. And the earliest reported match was played at Slane, Co.Meath in 1712. (No, Meath didn't meet Dublin that day: they played Louth). I don't know who won but I'm sure Jimmy Magee could tell you.

    If I'm not being pedantic why am I telling you this?

It's because of a forthcoming event, unique in the history of Gaelic games. Michael Cusack, Maurice Davin or Archbishop Croke couldn't have envisaged it, at the foundation of the Gaelic Athletic Association, one hundred and nineteen years ago.

Even the man who came up with the idea, John Cassidy, didn't dream of it as he listened, (from his cradle) in his native Clougher, Co. Donegal, on the old Bush battery radio, in 1953, to his first All-Ireland final. (I know who won that day; Cavan beat Meath, 2-4 to 1-7)

John Cassidy knew from an early age that Gaelic football was the preserve of (for the most part, poor) Irish Catholics. Didn't his fellow Ulsterman, author/journalist, Cormac MacConnell confess to altering the "Mc" on his birth certificate in order to show that he was born into the kind of "starving Papish family that plays Gaelic football rather than the wealthy Presbyterians of that era who played rugby".

Half a century later, in Dublin, John Cassidy recalled the words of that great American reformer and political activist W.E.B. Du Bois, who said: "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the colour line- the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea".

John is a supervisor with Dublin Bus, which employs a workforce taken from more than 40 countries and through the Equality and Diversity Action Plan is working to promote anti-racism and cultural diversity. When it comes to raising multicultural awareness, not only among his colleagues in Bus Atha Cliath but worldwide, there is none more innovative than John Cassidy.

Let me explain. Some months ago John came up with a unique idea. He took it to his bosses in Dublin bus and got 100% support. Drivers, Supervisors, Divisional Managers et al did all in their power to ensure that the Donegalman's dream would become a reality. A key figure in this body of support was Pat Normanly, Equality Officer, Dublin Bus. Thanks to the overwhelming support and John's foresight, tenacity, drive, Tir Conail cunning and cohesion thirty Gaelic players will line out on the Dublin Bus pitch at Coldcut in west Dublin at three o 'clock,on Thursday 06th November.

    But this will be a game with a difference.
We'll see players from Nigeria, Bosnia, Romania and places that some of our Primary Cert history didn't cover. Here's what makes it different;

All proceeds, from this cosmopolitan encounter, will go the Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin.

Friendly combat free from national (and indeed international) prejudice should be a lesson to us all. Such a multi-ethnic assembly must surely make the intense rivalry between Finuge and Lixnah appear almost insignificant, not to mention the Kildare/Offaly, football-induced, territorial divide. Why, even contention, as intense as that of Rathnew and Tinahely pales (almost) in the face of such multicultural competition..... I don't know who is going to do the commentary, but I'm sure Michael O Muircheartaigh would have no trouble with names like Onyechefuna, Kame, Bouisjerda or Onofrei .

Yes. John Cassidy's idea has introduced new blood into Gaelic football And who knows maybe some year, in the not too distant future, the voice of the compere from Dingle will echo through the lanes and haggards of Ireland on the last Sunday in September as he exclaims:

    "Nihou will be the kicker.... Nihou kicking it short. .....the ball to Akinboie, Akinboie to Ali Hasson, Hasson to Ravel. Ravel gets it out to Teib....Teib from the right wing and Teib sends it over the bar for another point for Wicklow. Wicklow 10 to Leitrim 9 in this historic All-Ireland football final...... ...17 minutes gone in the second half....."


    It's a free for Leitrim.....the free will be taken behind the 50 yard line Sarioglu is the kicker.....he's a right-footed kicker.... ..I bought a greyhound from his father......................It's intercepted very well by Oyetunji for Wicklow........the dog didn't win at Newbridge either"

But back to reality; Put the date in your diary; 08th November and no matterv what part of the globe you come from John Cassidy has struck a blow for you. You could send a "well done" message to him at

Michael Cusack


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